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water vole (TERRY WHITTAKER/2020VISION)

Water voles thriving along Hertfordshire River Ver after being reintroduced

Water voles, a UK mammal facing extinction, Make Thriving Comeback on Hertfordshire River Two Years After Successful Reintroduction.

The reintroduction was made possible with funding from the Debs Foundation and Linder Foundation.

In August 2021, the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and the Ver Valley Society released 150 water voles onto the banks of the River Ver, west of St Albans. The voles had last been seen in the area in 1987, that’s 34 years due to habitat loss.

Since the release, the Trust’s water vole officer, Josh Kalms, has headed up a team of Water Vole Surveyor Volunteers who have been trained to look for field signs of water vole occupation, including latrines and feeding sites.

Full surveys have taken place in each of the two years following the release. The first data collected in 2022 reported a 238% increase in range along the river and its watercourses. This year’s findings show that the water vole occupancy in the Ver Valley has more than doubled each year on average.

The voles were reintroduced to a stretch of the River Ver after extensive restoration work to improve the area. This work included planting native trees and shrubs to create new riverbank habitat, and installing fencing to protect the voles from predators.

The success of the water vole reintroduction on the River Ver is a testament to the hard work of the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, the Ver Valley Society, and their volunteers. It is also a positive sign for the future of this endangered mammal.

Mr Kalms said water voles are a “key species” for maintaining “healthy wetland ecosystems” and it’s wonderful to see how well the Water Voles are doing on the River Ver, testament to the private landowners who saw the ecological benefit of the reintroduction and all the hard work that went in to managing the habitat prior to their release. For that, I must extend huge thanks to the Ver Valley Society, whose volunteers have been instrumental in this project from the early planning stages of the reintroduction. Indeed, many of those are now trained Water Vole Surveyors and continue to be guardians of both the river and the species.

“They are mini ecosystem engineers with their burrowing and feeding helping our river banks and wetlands stay in good condition,” he said.

“Water voles are now occupying almost all of the River Ver between St Albans and Redbourn, with some travelling an additional 4.8km upstream.

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is aiming to have Water Voles back in every river in Hertfordshire by 2030. To achieve this, they are looking for future reintroductions but these will only be possible with funding therefore if anyone would like to help fund, the Trust would be delighted to hear from them. Likewise, if you are a landowner with a watercourse and would like to discuss the suitability of Water Vole reintroduction on your land, please get in touch with the Trust by emailing info@hmwt.org